BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 27 December 2007, 07:53 GMT
The technology with impact 2007
Facebook logo
Facebook has been successful - and controversial
The last 12 months have seen plenty of talking points around technology - from the iPhone, to Facebook, the launch of Vista and the XO laptop - but what were the developments, stories or gadgets which had the biggest impact?

The BBC News technology team members pick out their favourite technology of 2007.


My technology of the year is, somewhat predictably, Facebook.

I know it isn't the most original of picks and ever since logging on back in the summer, I have had a nagging suspicion that it is little more than a glorified form of instant messaging - only slower, but I still find it addictive.

And that comes from someone who has never updated their status and rarely uploads pictures or does anything with the various applications I sign up for.

So why do I love it? Essentially it is about communication and people which, for me, is what technology should be all about. It also appeals to my innate sense of curiosity and allows me to people-watch on a grand scale, on my own terms and without getting accused of staring.

On a personal level I have found it if not life-changing then definitely life-enhancing. It reunited me with a long-lost university friend, as well as being the first place I learned of another friend's pregnancy and saw yet more friends' baby pics for the first time.

On a professional level it has allowed me to 'get' social networking which, up until that point, was a vague umbrella term for something I didn't entirely understand.

I have one concern. When instant messaging was in its infancy I was rarely disconnected but these days my account languishes. The interesting thing for me will be to see whether the same happens for my Facebook profile once the novelty wears off.


In January Apple Boss Steve Jobs launched the iPhone, a device he said would "revolutionise the industry". And the phone certainly lived up to expectations, for some.

But, for me, the highlight of the year was a technology that has the potential to have a far greater transformative impact.

Look no wires - power deliver over the air

In July, US researchers showed-off a relatively simple system that could deliver energy to devices, such as laptop computers, without the need for wires. The setup, called Witricity, was able to make a 60W light bulb glow from a distance of 2m (7ft).

The bulb was even made to glow when obstructions such as wood and metal were placed between the transmitter and receiver.

The reason it is my technology of the year is threefold. Firstly, if the system can be refined it has the potential to banish the annoying and ever-growing tangle of wires needed to recharge today's electronic gadgets to the past.

There are already systems on the market that use recharging pads - similar to electric toothbrush chargers - or highly directional lasers, but none that are able to flood a room with useful energy in the same way as the Witricity setup.

Secondly, the MIT researchers were able to build and test a workable system at breakneck speed.

Although the basic physics underpinning the system were well understood, the first results from their working prototype were presented to the public just eight months after the researchers had presented a paper outlining their theoretical design.

And finally, the experiment also vindicates the work of the nineteenth-century physics and engineering heavyweight Nikola Tesla.

He experimented with long-range wireless energy transfer, but his most ambitious attempt - a 29m high aerial known as Wardenclyffe Tower, in New York - failed when he ran out of money.

Witricity shows that Tesla was right to pursue a world without wires.


2007 - the year of the iPhone and Vista and Leopard, and of more victories for the Nintendo Wii over the PlayStation3 in the console wars.

For me, though, one technology has made a bigger personal impact than any other - social networking, or to be more precise, Facebook.

In the first flush of my romance with Facebook, I added everyone in sight - students from American universities, forty-somethings who wanted to reassure me that I was not alone , someone masquerading as Patrick Moore, even, God help me, PR people.

Quickly I sobered up and began to ration my friendship to people I actually knew - or at least friends of friends.

And it worked. I developed a "virtual" social life, rediscovering old contacts, hooking up with other technology journalists, even talking more to my old friends.

News arrived on my computer each morning - one colleague announced his engagement, others the end of relationships. I felt better connected, part of a loose community where I could share as much or as little of my life as I wanted.

But in recent weeks, I have begun to wonder if Facebook has peaked. One friend - younger than me - became the first to leave, telling us it was encroaching too much on his time. Then I began to find aspects of the network increasingly irksome.

Back in May, the decision to open Facebook up to outside developers seemed brilliant, promising to change a simple pared-down site into a platform for your entire online life.

Now, I'm beginning to yearn for that early simplicity. I do not want to be bitten by vampires, or stock a virtual aquarium with fish, or watch another daft YouTube video sent to my FunWall.

Facebook's other strategic move - the Beacon advertising system - also promises to make it less attractive to users.

So are we falling out of love with Facebook? I posed that question to my "friends" the other day. "The novelty is wearing off.. " "Suffering seasonal Facebook fatigue.." were two comments.

Another had found that all her thirty-something friends had gone. But most reported that, while their early passion had faded, they were still enjoying running their social lives online. So here's my prediction - Facebook will not fade away in 2008. But don't expect to hear quite as much about it as you have this year.


I've been impressed with the iPhone, seen Facebook become an extension of my social life, suffered disappointed at the hands of Leopard and looked on in fascination as Microsoft struggled to make the best of Vista.

But the technology that has had the biggest impact on me personally is rich web applications. I know that's more of a range of technologies - but web apps like Google Calendar, Docs, and Reader and the new photo-editing tools on Flickr have made my life simpler.

I live a hybrid existence - using Macs at home, and on the road, but PCs at work. As such I have lots of issues around accessing information across two different platforms.

The programs I use for my e-mail, diary, RSS feeds and photos have always been different across the two systems. But the rise of web apps that are flexible, platform-neutral and accessible from anywhere I have a net connection has made my life almost pain-free.

The technology team plans its workload via Google calendar, we have collaborated on stories and scripts using a web-based word processor and I can now get access to the latest stories via RSS on my Mac, PC or mobile phone and it is always synchronised.

As technologies like Adobe Air and Google Gears allow richer and richer experiences to move to the cloud, and to merge the offline and online worlds, 2008 should be even more interesting.


My pick of the year is a pretty geeky one - but in a good way. In late November Nominet, which looks after the .uk domain, started work on a British Enum directory.

Enum, or Telephone Number Mapping, does a couple of hugely important things. It makes it possible to map net domains to telephone numbers. This means you can look up a number just like you do a net domain.

This is important as it promises to start unifying the still, largely, separate worlds of phones and the net. For a start this means that firms who route calls over the net, like Skype, will be able to interconnect much more easily. But that's just the start.

Given that eventually all communication could travel via the net it marks the start of a grand conjunction.

Ultimately it could mean that when you have one way to contact someone you have all the ways they can be contacted. All you will have to do is look them up like you do a website now.

The net will know.

Online and offline worlds merge
31 May 07 |  Technology
Wireless energy promise powers up
07 Jun 07 |  Technology
Power of Facebook affects law
18 Dec 07 |  Technology
UK net numbering project starts
26 Nov 07 |  Technology

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific